What does Genesis 39:11 mean?
ESV: But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house,
NIV: One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside.
NASB: Now it happened one day that he went into the house to do his work, and none of the people of the household was there inside.
CSB: Now one day he went into the house to do his work, and none of the household servants were there.
NLT: One day, however, no one else was around when he went in to do his work.
KJV: And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.
Verse Commentary:
Joseph continues to refuse the sexual advances of his master's wife (Genesis 39:7–8). He's in a terrible position. Given any other request, Joseph would likely feel compelled to obey his master's wife. Refusing certainly risks making her angry, but accepting would be a likely death sentence, not to mention a heinous sin (Genesis 39:9). It's notable that Potiphar, apparently, told Joseph directly that the only thing in the home to which he did not have full access was the master's wife. That suggests she might have seduced other slaves in the past.

This verse reminds us that the persistent sexual harassment against Joseph (Genesis 39:10) is happening in his workplace. His duties required him to be in the house (Genesis 39:3). On this day, Joseph was working inside and none of the other men were present. Whether this was a deliberate scheme on her part, or a coincidence, it's just the moment Potiphar's predatory wife had been waiting for.
Verse Context:
Genesis 39:1–18 describes Joseph's rise and fall as the slave of Potiphar, the captain of the guard in Egypt. He arrives in this situation after being sold by his own brothers (Genesis 37:26–28). The Lord continues to be with Joseph and to bless him. Potiphar promotes Joseph to the head manager of his household, even giving credit to the Joseph's God for all the success that follows. Potiphar's wife is also impressed with Joseph, but in a less honorable way. She persistently tempts him to sleep with her. When Joseph refuses, she unfairly frames the young Hebrew slave for attempted rape.
Chapter Summary:
Joseph's arrival as a slave in Egypt is not the end of his story. The Lord continues to be with him and to bless him. Joseph rises to become the right-hand man of his master, Potiphar, the captain of the guard. Eventually, he is betrayed by a false accusation of rape by his master's scorned wife. Even then, Joseph finds the Lord is still with him, still blessing him, even in prison. Soon Joseph oversees every aspect of the prison, serving once again under God's faithful blessing.
Chapter Context:
In chapter 37, Joseph narrowly escaped being murdered by his own brothers (Genesis 37:18–20), only to be sold as a slave (Genesis 37:26–28). Chapter 39 picks up his story after taking a detour into the scandalous life of Judah. Though a slave in Egypt, Joseph thrives under the Lord's blessing. He rises to the top position in his master's household, only to be jailed on a false accusation of attempted rape. Still, Joseph continues to be blessed by God, again rising to become the jailer's most trusted servant. Joseph's reputation and ability to interpret dreams will factor into his rise within the government of Egypt.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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